Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Freezing Down
(Freezing Point)

Anders Bodelsen

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Freezing Down

Title: Freezing Down
Author: Anders Bodelsen
Genre: Novel
Written: 1969 (Eng. 1971)
Length: 183 pages
Original in: Danish
Availability: Freezing Down - US
Freezing Down - UK
Freezing Down - Canada
Le point de congélation - France
Brunos tiefgekühlte Tage - Deutschland
  • Danish title: Frysepunktet
  • US title: Freezing Down
  • UK title: Freezing Point
  • Translated by Joan Tate

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

A- : powerful and well-executed

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Books Abroad . Summer/1970 Amanda Langemo
The NY Times Book Rev. . 28/2/1971 Martin Levin

  From the Reviews:
  • "The sinister impact of Frysepunktet (...) derives not so much from its science-fictional projection into a distant then as from its disturbingly realistic commentary on the immediate now. (...) While other writers have also dealt with this theme of life in a world we regret we ever made, few have succeeded so well in compelling readers to contemplate possible means of counteraction. Suspense never flags, the major characters are intimately drawn, and their story is succinctly told." - Amanda Langemo, Books Abroad

  • "There are a few other bugs in the freezing process, and Bruno becomes a melancholy Dane indeed. Mr. Bodelsen speculates on the metaphysics of geriatry with wit and imagination, projecting a time in the future when one's vital organs will belong to "society" (for transplant purposes) and life will be eternal and unbearable." - Martin Levin, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Freezing Down (published in the UK as Freezing Point) is set in the (then) near future -- the 1969 novel opening in 1973. The protagonist is thirty-two-year-old Bruno, a successful fiction editor at a weekly magazine. He notices an irregularity on his neck while shaving and goes to the doctor to get it checked out; it turns out to be a cancerous growth, and the cancer has already spread in his body, including to his liver. Conventional, "by the book" treatment -- surgery, radium treatment -- is unlikely to do much good beyond prolonging his life by a bit; there is no current cure for his condition. But his treating doctor, Dr.Ackermann, says that there is an alternative:

But we can also attempt to do something more active. We can gamble, and there's a chance of our winning.
       What he proposes is: "We wish to freeze you down". Cryonics was in in its (real-world) infancy at the time, and presumably also in the news -- Dr.Ackermann mentions that: "Perhaps you've read about freezing people down", and the first cryonic freezing of a human being took place in 1967 --, and the premise of Bodelsen's novel is simply that the technology has advanced more quickly than it actually did. (In real life, things have not moved along nearly as quickly; cryonics is arguably still nearly as much in its infancy as it was when the novel was published.)
       Bruno is an idea-man: he himself doesn't write, but he's constantly feeding his writers with ideas. (He does then also edit the stories, shaping them into appropriate form). He's very good at his job -- and it's not an insignificant one; he certainly believes in the value of what he's doing and is apparently compensated appropriately:
Bruno said that in the society of the future, and to some extent now, anyone who could tell a good story fell into the top income bracket. The ability was rare and there was nothing unreasonable about its paying well.
       (As utopian (or ridiculous) as this might sound today, especially regarding print-writing, the twentieth century did indeed see periods where magazine-writers were paid a now unthinkable per-word rate even for fiction; Hollywood and, more recently, television have also paid top dollar for the work of idea-men like Bruno.)
       Bruno lives by himself, and during this time when he begins to deal with his medical situation he's invited to a dinner; the single woman who he's been set up with -- a ballet dancer named Jenny Holländer -- proves taciturn and he doesn't engage in much conversation with her. Still, he offers her a ride home -- out of the way though it proves to be -- and finds himself quite taken by her, soon seeking her out again.
       Bruno realizes just how solitary his life is when he is making his decision as to how to proceed -- to freeze or not to freeze --, as he has no one with whom he could even discuss it:
Naturally it said something about himself, something conclusive and negative, that there was not a single person he could tell.
       Jenny, whom he barely knows, is the only one he really seems to consider, but he can't bring himself to even tell her. He chooses instead to rush ahead with the procedure, and get himself frozen down. He's not the first to ... go down, but he is a pioneer.
       The next part of Freezing Down finds Bruno thawed out in 1995. While limited in what he's then exposed to -- though eager to learn more, not least for professional reasons (story-idea-generating and editing are the only things he knows how to do): "I must get to know the world today" -- he sees and learns enough to understand that this a very different world.
       Freezing people -- and thawing them out -- is now not just viable but commonplace; it is also expensive: "It is not free to be down". The once pressing issues of the then past have been superseded by the biggest one of all, the 'life problem'; as to the others: " Those problems are not solved, just forgotten". A major reälignment has occurred:
Society consists of two classes: the now-life class, which accepts death when the first organ gives out; and the immortal class, which works and pays for their -- and here the sloganmakers have in my opinion created a word which despite everything still promises too much -- so-called immortality.
       Those who choose 'now-life' don't have to work, simply enjoying themselves off the funds from their mortgaged organs -- which are then harvested at their natural deaths, helping keep those who have chosen 'all-life' alive. Only doctors and nurses are in a special category of their own, with special benefits -- though as these become the most popular jobs, this threatens to become problematic, too.
       As an early specimen, and among those who have spent the longest time frozen, Bruno is of particular interest to the scientific community -- though it's a while before someone makes his situation -- the new human condition, for so many -- absolutely clear to Bruno:
You don't own yourself any longer. Society owns you.
       They did cure his cancer -- though they also took some other liberties along the way: waking up in 1995 he finds himself sterilized ("just as everyone who is down has been sterilized"), and they took his kidneys (though, admittedly, they did also later replace them).
       Bruno must also choose what life he wants -- though they don't make it easy for him, keeping close tabs on him and not letting him get much of a sense of what the world out there is like. Fixating on Jenny, he learns that she became a famous ballerina, but then disappeared after being injured; as it turns out, she has now gone down as well, to be revived when it is medically possible to give her a new spine. She also had a child -- but: "Her so-called art interested her more than her child".
       Bruno wants to be reünited with Jenny, one way or another, and they finally give in, freezing him down again. The third part of the novel is then set in 2022, when both Bruno and Jenny are brought to full consciousness again, and Jenny is outfitted with a new, fully functional spine so that she can dance again. Their meetings are dosed at first, but at least they do get to see each other.
       Not everything is right in this new world they find themselves in -- manifest not least in the fact that Bruno does not understand the new, now common language being used. As is explained to him: "The old language gradually became full of meaningless words. Boring words, which just upset people". Bruno still clings to the hope that magazines and stories still exist and are needed, but things don't look promising.
       Already in 1995 the system was, in part, creaking: "Concede that the whole thing is collapsing", someone challenges one of the doctors, and Bruno got more than just an inkling that this wasn't a world of satisfied customers. He, too, struggled -- and lashed out. In 2022, the system still stands, but the utopian turn is definitely darker. So also here, Dr.Ackermann is no longer the leading light showing the way to a grand future but rather a doddering man who keeps forgetting and repeats himself, fading into senility.
       Freezing Down toys with starry-eyed romance, but with Bruno and Jenny knowing each other only all of three days before Bruno got himself frozen down (without telling her) and the rest of the action darkly realistic readers likely quickly sense that they should not have too high expectations for a happily-ever-after end.
       'Freezing down' is, of course, a form of escapism -- used then not just to wait for medical advances but to simply draw out life itself, prolonging it through what amounts to dormancy, itself a form of, ironically, not-living. It is escapism for Bruno -- certainly after the first time, when his life no longer hangs in the balance -- but, as his story shows, it's hard to escape oneself, with Bodelsen playing that out devastatingly in the novel's dark conclusion.
       Idea-man Bruno never wrote his own stories -- but here he basically finds himself living one, with only limited control over where it can go; it proves arguably more than he can handle. It's part of Bodelsen's interesting treatment of the seeming possibility of eternal life -- which both lures and breaks so many.
       It's all very well done, presented in a flat, unemotional tone and with limited action; Bodelsen intentionally presents a very empty world: Bruno interacts with few people and sees very little of the world at large; even when he is not frozen, he is cut off from most of it (and not just emotionally ...) and clearly being kept in the dark about a great deal (as, for example, they'll only answer a limited number of his questions).
       Bruno can inspire -- his authors -- but has trouble acting for himself: very early on already there's a point where: "He could, but he did not". When he visits Jenny, and then sleeps with her, he asks her to: "Just imagine that we're in the middle of one of those stories I edit". He even maps out their whole dialogue: "You just reply: Yes, question mark". When they are done, Jenny recognizes: "There's something worrying you. Tell me about it", but he is unable to simply open up to her. Yes, from the first his ultimate, solitary fate is very clear .....
       A neat study of the human condition, building on this simple and so appropriate premise, Freezing Down is a powerful work, well conceived and executed -- not least in how coldness, literal and figurative, pervades all of it (and especially that conclusion).
       A vert strong novel.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 September 2022

- Return to top of the page -


Freezing Down: Reviews: Other books by Anders Bodelsen under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Danish author Anders Bodelsen lived 1937 to 2021.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2022 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links